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Interviews

Somewhere between Sharon Osbourne and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous- with SVML London.

Having set up SVML London in 2017, following ten years in the industry, Sophie Mackay-Lewis has barely paused for air. After a string of highly successful residential projects in and around London, Sophie won the opportunity to work for two exceptional clients on their out of the ordinary home in Kensington, London. eporta were lucky enough to work with Sophie to help deliver this unique scheme.

Read time: 8 minutes

Sophie Mackay-Lewis, founder of SVML London.
Sophie Mackay-Lewis, founder of SVML London.

The house, a cottage in the middle of Victorian mansion blocks, was a 1980's building with interiors to match. But the house was a little bit of magic tucked behind High Street Kensington, an oasis of quiet in such a busy part of town. This one-off space was perfectly matched to Sophie's unique clients. "The couple are amazing, she is a fine jewellery designer, very rock'n'roll but with a feminine edge, and he was a fighter pilot who now works out in Abu Dhabi, just very cool." With a powerful sense of style herself, the client knew what she wanted and had a distinctive brief for Sophie, "Sharon Osbourne meets Patsy from Ab Fab."

The initial phase entailed ripping out all of the 80s remnants, to create a blank canvas to work with, during which time Sophie did her research into the icons of the brief. "Having grown up on Ab Fab, I understood the restrained chic, yet eccentricity of Patsy. What I needed to learn was how to pair that with Sharon Osbourne's style. I found my reference point for her drifted from the interiors seen on MTV's The Osbournes, to her fashion sense. The materials she wore, leathers, skulls and velvets, were really what my client loved, I think."

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Three further desires were disclosed in the brief. Firstly, the scheme had to contain as much navy as possible. From furniture to accessories all the way through to hard finishes, navy had to be the hero. Secondly, this highly sociable couple needed a wow factor that would keep their guests entertained at parties, so for Sophie that meant creating little moments of eccentric detailing and surprises that would leave their guests thinking, 'oh that's cool'. Lastly, and related to the above, the house was to be rented out all of the time that the couple were in Abu Dhabi, via luxury holiday rentals and short-term letters. This meant that the house needed to stand out in the marketplace.

Sophie also took inspiration from her client's jewellery too, which included a lot of stud work, black diamonds and massive attention to detail. With all these elements at play, the clients worked closely, and decisively, alongside Sophie to select the furniture and fittings for their home.

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"It was an incredibly fun project to do, especially as the clients trusted me, and their style allowed me to go a little bit 'out there' creatively. What's more, having a client who really knows themselves made a world of difference. She, in particular, was so decisive and quick to say yes or no to options. Holding me to account between Sharon Osbourne and Patsy, telling me to be more Patsy, less Shazzer (Sharon Osbourne), aka, reign it in a little. Alternatively, she would encourage me to take a moment and ask would Shazzer like this? As I said, it was a fun project to be a part of."

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This decisiveness led to one of the trickier aspects of the project. "The client had found an image of her ideal bathroom tiles on Pinterest. Looking at these beautiful navy herringbone tiles, I thought well that should be easy to find. I was wrong. The tiles were only available in America, and the available alternatives were either the wrong hue of navy, had the wrong glazing, as we wanted a low gloss, matt-like finish, or they were the wrong size. In the end, and after a lot of searching, I had the tiles made bespoke and I'm thrilled we did as they look incredible."

So incredible in fact that they paved the way to one of Sophie's highlights of the project, a phone call from her client, following a party at the completed home, where two guests were overheard discussing the powder room. "She told me that these guests were both exclaiming that this was the most Instagrammable bathroom they'd ever been in!" And in an era where social media plays a massive part in the interior design world, Sophie didn't take this compliment lightly. "It made me feel exceptionally proud, even though it makes me sound ridiculous and I have the British affliction of struggling to digest compliments, but to know that others are talking about your designs, is really amazing."

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Of course, Sophie's hardest critic is herself, and she is not satisfied until the client is overjoyed with their home. So knowing that they loved the finished project and were immensely proud of their home was the cherry on top of a fabulous project.

As with all projects, though, things didn't always run smoothly. We've already discussed that the tiles were a real test, but Sophie shared that she learned some valuable lessons. "Always get things written down; this is one of the great things about eporta, every conversation is stored online in one place, making it easy to know where you stand. Unfortunately there was one instance where we didn’t use eporta, and on this occasion we had issues with a piece of furniture. I was told over the phone this was being held for me, yet when I went to pay, I was informed they'd been sold. I had no way of proving this because all our communication was verbal. Of course, the situation was sorted, it just meant a longer wait for chairs.”

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As well as helping Sophie ensure everything was documented in one place, she noted being thankful for two other things. Time saved, and the support offered. "For previous projects, so much time has been taken up going to showroom visits, dotted around the city and as a one-man band that is a big sacrifice, so having them all online, was brilliant. The other was the support I got from my account manager, who went above and beyond to help me find something specific. I wanted skull finials created for curtain rods, and she was able to help manage the conversations with the supplier to make this possible."

The project that Sophie has delivered for her clients is an example of how much fun design can be and how creating a great relationship and understanding of the client from the start, results in a unique scheme bespoke to the client. The question is, when do Sharon Osbourne and Patsy move in?

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